The Sydney YHA (directly across from the central station) has boys-only and girls-only rooms. That was cool. I slept in a four-person room that had two other girls: one of whom was unconscious when I arrived (at 11pm) and still unconscious when I left (at 6:30am), and the other one was reading when I arrived, and reading again when I left. We didn’t speak.
There are two awesome things about staying in a backpacker: First, you never know what you’re going to get. That’s always a thrill. Second, your life gets reduced way way down to a few basic things: Sleep. Minimal Personal hygiene. Cross-cultural manners. Getting to your next port of call. And ideally, some kind of food and drinkable water.
For me there’s a curious joy in living out of a single bag, and getting completely ready to go out while still in semidarkness. The previous night, I was stumbling so much with tiredness that people on the Sydney train system glared at me. But I woke up psyched, and was dressed and mostly ready before I even went to the bathroom (including “breakfast” of a Cherry Ripe).
My train to Canberra left at 7am, and was almost completely deserted. “Excellent,” I thought.
Moments before departure, a loud voice announced, “THIRTEEN! Why’d they have to put me in THIRTEEN!?”
Sure enough, the loud person sat in the seat directly in front of me, still talking. There was no one else in sight, so presumably he was talking to me.
At that point I had a choice – I could engage in conversation, which would probably make the train ride faster (or excruciatingly slow) – or I could pretend to sleep, and pretend hard.
“So,” I said, “Where are you from?”
He was a 71-year old wannabe Buddhist with a whole lot of superstitious beliefs. The woman in seat 11 (so there were others on the train after all) was a encephalitis survivor.
Encephalitis is a brain disease that takes over the brain from front to back, removing motor function and your ability to think as it goes. At one point she was unable to walk, and lay on a table in agony as doctors made jokes and refused to give her painkillers. At another point she was unable to figure out how to make a sandwich – but if someone placed the ingredients in front of her, she could do it.
98% of encephalitis sufferers die. She is fully recovered – except she needs to nap in the afternoons.
That is what I call awesome.
We also passed a steam train at Queanbeyan station, as it was preparing to depart (the blue is the reflection of my train’s seats on the window glass):
I gently re-emailed Publisher B today. They may reply today, or tomorrow – or not. I’ll let you know when they do.
I arrived home safely around noon on Sunday, and actually had tutoring that afternoon. Mercifully, my cold hasn’t reappeared (although I’m severely hanging out for the weekend). Other than around $1000 in transport and conference fees, my recent adventures cost me 5 kilos (at least). Being brave and pro-active is always costly. The worst is over now, but it’ll take me months to fully recover (both financially and weight-wise). On the other hand, the contacts I made will probably set me right for several years and/or make the difference in getting me published. So it was worth it, I think.
Here’s another pic of a cat modelling to become a killer robot:
She’s watching you. . .